My mom died.
It still feels weird to say that, but it doesn't stab me in the heart to say it like I always thought it would. I think I always pictured myself dressed in all black à la Scarlett O'Hara, spending endless days in bed in a deep depression. That's not to say that's not a possibility in the future, but I think I've handled it pretty well so far. Having 31 little mouths to feed also keeps me going each day, especially when 22 of them have turned the back porch into a chicken coop...but that's a story for another day.
A couple of days after she died, I sat here and wrote it all down. My intention was a blog post, but it turned into a 10,000+ word saga that was pretty personal, so I'm not sure if I'll publish it or not. It'll need some editing before I do. But it helped me work it all out, and I went from questioning everything to feeling at peace with most of it.
Admittedly, I've struggled more over the last few days than I did in the beginning. Maybe it's because those first days are filled with friends and family reaching out, a mailbox full of cards and notes, and meals and gift cards arriving every other day? After a while, everyone moves on, and you're left thinking what the hell do I do now? Especially when you don't have a husband, kids, or siblings to lean on... I do have my dad, of course, but as I told a friend of mine last night, I'm just a 70-year-old heart patient away from being alone in the world. That can be an overwhelming thought, even for an introverted only child like myself.
So, that's what I'm focusing on. What the hell do I do now? I've been taking care of my mom for years in some way or another. Probably longer than anyone knows. I've got to relearn how to live my life for me.
Well, first there's work. Over the last few years, I've more or less had to work part-time. That's been a struggle for me — to cut back when I know I could have been making so much more. I didn't fully appreciate it at the time, and I know I complained often, but looking back, I'm glad my work was flexible enough that I was able to be there for my parents.
So, you'd think I'd be ready to kick it up and work full-time now...but you'd be wrong. Not only am I not doing that, but I stepped back from one of my jobs. That had more to do with poor management than it had to do with anything going on in my life. I still have plenty of work — so much that I'm having to turn things down — but I really don't want to live my entire life at a computer.
Another reason why I'm not ramping up my workload is that I want to take some time to write what I want to write. I don't know what exactly that is right now, but I've got some projects started or swirling around in my head. I'm working on turning the formal living room in the front of the house into a nice cozy office where I can work on these things.
I'm also back in school. Not because I need to be. I'm doing just fine career-wise, and I don't have any big plans for a career change. But because I want to be. I'm actually learning things and studying topics I want to know more about. It's a different and more fulfilling experience than it is when you're 18 or 20.
One of my biggest regrets in life has always been not finishing my degree at UGA. It's hard to explain why, and I've thought about going back often, but there was never a right moment. This last spring was kind of a dark time in my life, and I woke up one morning and thought I'm going back to school. Thanks to COVID, there seemed to be more classes offered online, and I'm at a place where I can afford to pay for my own tuition. Why not? I knew it wouldn't be easy, working, going to school, taking care of my mom, and starting other ventures, but I managed to do it through the summer. Well, most of the summer. I didn't want to be the weird older student who asked for special privileges, but there I was at the end of the semester, telling my professor I couldn't finish up a project because my mom died. Luckily, she was accommodating. Anyway, I'm taking two agriculture classes this fall, and I absolutely love it.
Speaking of agriculture, I'm also starting a small farm. My goal is to ultimately try to make some money with it — going back to that whole "I don't want to live my life at a computer" thing — but if it's just a hobby, I'm okay with that too. It's a healthy and fulfilling hobby to have. I've currently got six ducks and 22 chickens and plans for a huge garden do-over next year. More animals to follow at some point. Right now, I'm just focused on getting these birds into their permanent housing.
Well, permanent for now. Anyone who knows me knows I hate the city where I live. I've always dreamed of moving elsewhere in Georgia or maybe to northern Florida or coastal South Carolina. The mountains or the Lowcountry — somewhere I love. Somewhere with more land. Maybe even the Athens area. Without my mom here, I don't even like to drive through town to get anywhere anymore. I dread having to run errands and have most things delivered or shop in neighboring towns. Last night, I had to look something local up on Google Maps, and I shuddered at the sight of it. This place is not for me anymore. I have no doubt about that.
The problem is I don't want to give up the property we have now — it's been in my family for ages and holds so many memories of my mom and grandparents. I know every inch of it, and it has so many resources for what I want to do. And I'm not sure my dad would ever leave, so if I could figure out a way to keep it (at least for now — until I make a home somewhere else) and buy something else, I'm all for it. Right now I'm saving for that and waiting for this crazy real estate bubble to bust and competition to die down before I really explore my options.
I also have a lot to clean out before I could even think about moving. My mom had a lot of stuff. I don't want to use the "hoarder" word because she'd come back and haunt me, but the woman liked stuff. She and I had plans to start cleaning it all out this year, but her health really stood in the way of that happening. I've already started on some of it. I've got a pile of things priced to take to our antique booths, and I revived her old eBay account. I'll probably have an estate sale or two next spring. May as well try to make some money on it to go towards my moving fund...
So far, it's actually been kind of fun going through it all, but it's also sad because I think back on all the times she wanted us to do it together but I just didn't have time or she didn't feel well enough. And I keep finding things that I know she was looking for as recently as the week before she went to the hospital. On top of her stuff, we bought out our neighbor's estate sale two years ago and have been storing most of that. Plus, at one point in time, I did actually live in my own home, and I've got a whole household of my own stuff to go through. Basically, I have two houses packed full, a huge storage building, a garage, a basement, and two attics full of things to clear out. That should keep me busy for a while.
I'll be working on some other projects around here too. I'd still like to fix up my parents' old house. There are some things I'd like to do to this house and the property around it. I started re-doing the landscaping at the pool a couple of years ago and would like to finish that. I want to prep some garden beds for next year.
Other than that, I have no idea what my future holds. I'd like to travel more, but I'm gonna have to wait until this whole pandemic thing calms down again to do that. I've got friends in other parts of the country who are always wanting me to come visit, so I'd like to take some time to do that. I haven't ruled out having my own family at some point. I'm thinking about getting a puppy. I'd like to spend more time reading. I'd like to spend more time swimming for exercise. If it weren't for this whole COVID thing, I'd probably have some bigger plans, but I'm just going to wait and see what happens for now.
And more than anything, I just want to enjoy some drama-free peace and quiet. Life has been a challenge for the last few years. I need some easy living.
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